Short-staffed Scots NHS board fails SNP targets

NHS Grampian admitted that delayed discharge of patients from hospitals continued to be a key challenge. Picture: Contributed

NHS Grampian admitted that delayed discharge of patients from hospitals continued to be a key challenge. Picture: Contributed

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A HEALTH board facing major staff shortages has failed to meet national performance targets set by the Scottish Government.

New figures obtained from NHS Grampian show that its performance has been rated in many categories as either red or amber in achieving improvement requirements.

It all comes back to the staffing levels at Grampian and the funding for the level of activity necessary for its population.

Dr Jamie Weir

The Scottish Government HEAT target was launched to make sure no hospital patients were waiting more than 14 days to be discharged to a more appropriate facility from April this year.

But NHS Grampian admitted that the delayed discharge of patients continued to be a key challenge for the health board.

More than half of patients ready to leave hospitals in the region faced longer stays because they were still waiting for a place in a care home, while others were waiting for community care assessments to be carried out.

To speed up the process, a rapid response team will now be working with care home staff and considering other housing options to help free up beds for other patients.

New teams of carers will also be employed to offer immediate care at home duties.

And only 84 per cent of patients suspected to have cancer underwent tests within 62 days of referral between January and June this year.

It is hoped the health board performance will improve with the opening of a new endoscopy service at the Aberdeen Health and Social Care Village in October.

The reporting and monitoring of cancer tracking has also been reviewed and streamlined.

Dr Jamie Weir, chairman of the north-east patient body PACT, said: “As far as cancer is concerned, this is worrying.

“It means that if you have 100 people, you have about 16 of them not being referred within the reasonable time frame for diagnosis and treatment.

“It all comes back to the staffing levels at Grampian and the funding for the level of activity necessary for its population.”

By the end of June 2015, 76.9 per cent of patients waiting for an appointment in Grampian had been on the waiting list for 12 weeks or less, compared to 89.7 per cent across Scotland.

Departments with the largest numbers of patients waiting longer periods are orthopaedics, dermatology and respiratory medicine.

The health board stressed that there was a robust plan in place to improve waiting times in the dermatology and respiratory departments.

However, NHS Grampian performed well meeting national guidelines set to ensure that casualty patients are seen within four hours of attending emergency departments.

The performance report shows that 97 per cent of the 138, 540 patients seen by medics over the past year were either admitted, transferred or discharged within the prescribed time limit.

All other patients were seen within eight hours.

NHS Grampian faced “major financial pressure” during the first quarter of the year due to paying high locum costs due to staff shortages.

The health board admitted that there had been a £3.5 million overspend on the revenue budget by the end of August.

A Budget Steering Group meeting was set up a few weeks ago to consider a range of options for the board to take forward to help balance the books next year.

An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “The performance report submitted to board meetings is not an exhaustive list of our performance against all targets. It is a snapshot designed to highlight areas where we face challenges and explain what we are doing to meet those challenges.

“It uses a traffic light system as a quick guide; areas highlighted in red are those not currently meeting targets and where plans are being developed to address this.

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